This past week Rav Hershel Schecter from Neve Yaakov in Yerushaliyim passed away. Now, nobody on this list knows who he is (with one exception, maybe). He was not a public figure. Nor was he a great and popular rav. He was, according to everybody whom he met, a tzaddik. Not a hidden tzaddik, but a revealed one. I'm close with his son, who I'm happy to be able to call one of my rabbeim, and when I lived in Yerushaliyim, I had a relationship with him as well. In fact, my wife once said to me, "When we grow old, I want to be like them." I cannot put words to writing on who he was, but without exaggeration, he was beyond this world. A friend of mine said, "People like this only become who they are later in life, when they have worked on themselves throughout their youth." He was not normal. Not real. And it's a tremendous loss, not only to his family, but to his neighborhood, and the Jewish world.
A few weeks ago, was the yartzeit of Dr. Yerachmiel Kramer, originally from Chicago. We were neighbors in Chicago and he and his family have a share in my being in Israel today. He was not a revealed tzaddik, and I certainly don't mean that in a negative way. He was a "normal" person, working as a psychologist during the day, and learning whenever he could, including late at nights and early in the morning (like 4 a.m.). However, as I said, he was "normal," not normal. His wife told me after the shiva, that she had no idea that he knew so many people. Her house was packed throughout the week with people coming and going, telling stories of how Dr. Kramer helped them with this or with that. How he helped start this minyan or strengthen that one. How he was working with Hatzalah to start a new program nationwide for those needing help dealing with trauma. He impacted many more people than even his family knew of.
Rabbi Schecter was a revealed tzaddik. Dr. Kramer was a "normal" man.
As I was thinking of these two individuals, I couldn't help but think, "When my time comes, they will not be speaking like this about me. Heck, I'll be lucky to have a minyan at my grave." It's not an attack on myself (okay, it is), but I think many people think like this when such people leave this world. Of course, what they say at our funerals is not the important thing in life and has no correlation whatsoever to our reward in the Next World. However, nobody likes the idea of leaving this world thinking, "What have I done with myself?"
This week's parsha contains something I never really noticed. There are three "forefathers" of the Jewish nation. Out of the three, Yitzchok seems to be the least noticed. In all stories, he's connected to either Avraham or to Yaakov. In this week's parsha however, there is the only section where he himself is the sole subject. And what happens? It's a practical repeat of Avraham's story. There is a famine, he's about to go to Egypt (and then is stopped by Hashem), he lives amongst the Plishtim, he says his wife is his sister, etc., and that's it!
From a simple reading of the Torah, Yitzchok is 1) Avraham's son, 2) Yaakov's father, 3) was willing to be sacrificed, and 4) lived the same life as his father.
Not very exciting.
Perhaps there is something to learn from here. There are people, who, on the cover, are not the greatest people in the world. They don't live exciting lives. They don't raise large, successful families. In fact, like Yitzchok, some of their children do not turn out so well. They seem to go through life similar to how their fathers did. They don't stand out.
Yitzchok, however, did do something. He was willing to sacrifice himself on Hashem's command. And there is no doubt he lived with that same self-sacrifice he was willing to die for. And THAT was a big part of his greatness.
Perhaps we're not all supposed to be the revealed tzaddik or the "normal" one. Perhaps we won't leave this world leaving some huge (physical) mark on it. Instead, maybe we're supposed to simply lead our lives with as much "self-sacrifice" as we could, in order to do whatever our individual missions are in this world. Yitzchok lived a life without fanfare. Maybe that's a trait that we can follow as well.